Group: Women's Caucus/Resources/Welcoming meetings

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Hosting Welcoming Meetings

This is above and beyond just running a good meeting. If you run or co-run a user group, you've almost certainly had a conversation or two about getting more people to your meetings. If you're here, you've probably also had a conversation or two about how to get more women (or anyone who doesn't look just like those of us already here) to your meetings. Here are a few simple things you can do to make your meeting more welcoming.

  • Invite new people individually and specifically. It can be very difficult to overcome the perception that certain kinds of groups (Ham Radio, RPG nights, GLUGs) are only interested in certain kinds of (white, male) people. A personal invitation is the best way to let someone know that she would definitely be welcome at your meeting.
  • Have your meeting in a public place. It feels like an insider's club when the meeting is at someone's house.
  • Make sure people can get to/from your meeting safely. Ideally, parking or public transit should be nearby, the area safe and the route well-lit.
  • Do verbose introductions. eg. "My name is Kathy, I work at Startle Up and my favorite piece of free software is GIMP."
  • Consider having a "newcomer's night" every so often. Two or three new people at a time will feel more comfortable than just one. At the very least try not to invite new people to meetings that could be titled, "A super-gossipy rehash of last year's finances" or "OMG, Joe got engaged."
  • Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and that you don't allow one or two people to dominate. As the moderator (or meeting convener) it is your job to say things like, "I'd like to hear what some of the rest of you are thinking." or "I know Suzy has a lot of background in free software tools for education. Suzy, do you want to add anything here?"
  • Inappropriate behavior must be dealt with swiftly. Silence equals complicity, or it will seem to. If someone is out of line,[1] the moderator needs to call them on it at the meeting. Just simply say something like, "Hey, that's inappropriate. We're here to talk about Perl." or "If you're going to continue being disrespectful, you'll have to leave." If you have a repeat offender, ask them to leave.
  • Consider adopting a diversity statement like the excellent and inclusive one used by Dreamwidth. Make sure it's easy to find from your front page or wherever you post your meeting information.


  1. flirting, discussions of porn or sex, disparagement of any person based on gender, race, ability, religion or orientation, assumptions made based on gender, race, ability, religion or orientation, any sort of singling out or hazing of new people, especially if it's based on gender, race, ability, religion or orientation.